Does Regulating Industrial Agriculture Help Or Hurt the Clean Food Cause?
To regulate or not to regulate, that is the question. As HB-875 wends its way through Capital Hill, farmers like me are watching its progress with shock and fear. This so-called Food Modernization Act is really the euphemistic name for the largest assault against local, environmentally friendly, nutritionally superior food ever launched by industrial food advocates.
Under the guise of food safety, this bill pushes forward an industrial agenda, using the power of law to accomplish what Monsanto by itself could not. Mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is designed to put prejudicial burdens on smaller producers. A Tyson chicken farmer only needs one Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) per factory house flock; a pastured poultry producer or backyard flock operator would need one implanted in every single chicken.
With 24-hour mandated up-do-date information, heaven help the backyard flock with a missing bird when the auditors show up to wand the chickens and match their beeping (not clucking) to the computer printout. And what if you don't have a computer? Or the time to enter all the data? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and NAIS is definitely a road to hell under the guise of food safety.
If somebody really wants safer food, how about eliminating factory farms, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), cattle feedlots, genetic engineering, and split M&M feeding to hogs? The squiggly Latin words that have recently become ubiquitous in our collective vocabulary are nature crying for mercy: E. Coli, Salmonella, Lysteria, Camphylobacter, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza. Enough! Nature cries. But the Conquistadors are still at it, trying to round up any vestige of holism and earth nurturing found in small, eco-friendly farms. Wounded Knee is still here, only this time it is earth-friendly farmers who believe cows should be raised on pasture, tomatoes in compost, and pigs in the woods.
The way to solve these problems is to free up entrepreneurism in the food system to develop prototypes immune to the pathogens and nutrient deficiencies plaguing industrial food. The answer is not mandatory irradiation, but unregulated food choice. Americans enjoy the freedom to own guns, assemble, and speak. But what good are those freedoms if we do not have the more fundamental freedom to choose the food we want to feed our 3 trillion member intestinal community to give us the energy to shoot, preach, and pray? By what stretch of industrial imagination do we assume that feeding our children Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew is safe, but raw milk and compost-grown tomatoes is not?
Right now I will not debate whether or not the big industrial food giants need to be regulated. Let's not haggle over whether food that lies for a month in the belly of a Chinese merchant marine needs regulation. First, let's free up food choice in our communities so that the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker can return to the village, imbedded in the neighborhood that sees what goes in the front door and exits the back. Let's do that first.
By doing so, we will create a vibrant, explosive local food commerce that may actually topple the big pathogen-laden industrial interests occupying our time. After we've decriminalized cottage kitchens, raw milk, homemade noodles, and farmstead quiche we may be surprised to find that the industrial food system crumbles in its own tastelessness. Indeed, the main reason people survive on industrial fare is because most have never been wowed with real food because it's been denied them by an anti-small food police bureaucracy.
Prototypes must all start small. Oak trees come from acorns, not 20 foot saplings. When the government- demanded overhead to sell one pound of cheese or one pint of homemade soup require the prototype to be large, the embryo is too big to be birthed. As a result, capricious, prejudicial, asinine regulations deny the culture the innovations that would naturally provide an antidote for all the food fears foisted upon the public. Rather than embracing food, Americans fear it. When one hamburger contains pieces from 1,500 cows, and these cows were knee deep in their own feces, eating food that destroyed their digestive systems and shoved conjugated linoleic acid out of their bodies, that is indeed a fearful thing.
But food--eating--is one of the most intimate things we do as humans. As an intimate act, it is best done as the culmination of courtship leading to knowledge and relationship. It should be a dinner dance partner. But in our culture, we have treated it like a prostitute. Indeed, even life itself is being patented and sold to the highest bidder in an ultimate enslavement of creation. And this so-called food modernization act pushes this agenda forward like nothing we've ever seen. Ultimately, we don't need to read the entire act to form an opinion. Just look at who is in favor: Monsanto. If that is all I know, it's enough.
As they say here in the south: "If Monsanto is fer it, then I'm agin it." Those of us in the clean food movement are fighting for our livelihood and the freedom to choose our food.
I am known as a Typhoid Mary, a bioterrorist, in my community. Industrial food advocates have branded me with these labels because I don't adhere to scientifically based CAFOs, and I let my chickens commiserate with Red-Winged Blackbirds who take poultry diseases to scientific Tyson houses and jeopardize the world's food supply.
As Mark Twain said: "It's not what I don't know that bothers me; it's what I know that ain't so that bothers me." What differentiates a free society from tyranny is what it does to its lunatic fringe. Right now, the food lunatic fringe is being demonized, marginalized, and criminalized. Wake up, America. This is not about preference and playing games. It is one of the final battles in the war for dominion: Wall Street dominion.
That so many duplicitous foodies have faith in the government to save us from industrial food illustrates just how ignorant we are about this conflict. In spite of presidential change, 8 miles of USDA offices have not changed a lick. The government-Wall Street fraternity is going full speed ahead, make no mistake about it. The way to stop it is for each of us to opt out, find and patronize our dinner dance partners, and exercise our food freedom of choice.
The finalists for NRDC’s first-ever Growing Green Awards are extraordinary leaders in the field of sustainable food. The award winners will be honored along with Michael Pollan at NRDC’s “Food for Thought” benefit in San Francisco on May 9th.